Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Boats and Sea Peoples

Artzy’s article On Boats and Sea Peoples outlines the studies of the mysterious “Sea People’s” that are mentioned in various sources across the Ancient Near East. In the 14th through the 12th century there are references to a group of people that ravaged the area repeatedly, but there is little evidence as to who these people are or where they came from.  Some of the possible groups include the Sharadan, the Shekelesh, the Danuna, the Teresh, the Plesheset, the Tejeker, and the Weshesh. The most evidence we have about these peoples are the drawings of boats left behind.  One example is an altar found at Tel Akko from around 1200 B.C. that portrays several marks representing ships. There is a possibility that it was a ship’s altar that could have been moved onshore when the ship was docked.
There are four boats depicted on the altar ranging in size and overlapping one another. The ships vary in detail and complexity, especially a “fan” shaped stem that is very peculiar. There are no other examples of this type of “fan” on any other ship during that time period. There are many reasons that the ship might possess this shape, including that it could be of ritual or spiritual importance. It could also be exaggerated from any actual ship’s dimensions. There are some examples of similar types of ships and there are writings about other types of prows shaped like flowers and examples of ships similar made of clay. 
While there is no certainty about where these ships came from of who was actually responsible for them, there are some conjectures that they originated in Cyprus or another group that is unknown. There really aren’t any hard and fast answers about these ships, and there is a likelihood that there never will be. Unless there is evidence found about these cultures or more depictions of these ships found, how can we know for certain?

This was one of the most frustrating articles that I have read so far for this class, mainly because there are no answers about the ships and there is really no conclusion about the article. It mostly goes back and forth suggesting possible solutions and then stating that they don’t have enough evidence to support them or that there is another possibility that could be it instead. This is extremely frustrating to me, because when trying to understand what there is to get out of the article, the less answers there are, the harder it becomes to make any sense of it without being an expert. There are a few other sources mentioned in the article that could have helped to make this more accessible, but unfortunately, I don’t have access to them.
Even regardless of learning more about this topic, I still don’t think that this article offers much for either scholars or students. Without any real information in the article, I can’t imagine what there is to understand about these boats or sea peoples. I understand that it is important to learn more about different groups of people in the ancient world and would love to actually get some answers about these artifacts but that is something that I can’t see happening in the near future.

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